Church Publishes New Resources on Religious Freedom
By Ryan Morgenegg, Church News staff writer
- New resources on religious freedom include several videos, a topic page on the Mormon Newsroom website, and a Facebook page.
- Church leaders emphasize the importance of maintaining freedom for all religions.
- Freedom of religion is a fundamental right that requires diligent preservation.
“Essential freedoms of conscience, embedded in religious liberty, must be diligently preserved and protected.” —Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve
The Church is taking a stand for religious freedom by launching several new online resources. Late in the evening on September 10, the Church published a Facebook page, a Mormon Newsroom topic page, and several videos to help people of conscience everywhere understand the importance of protecting religious freedom.
Last general conference President Thomas S. Monson counseled members of the Church to respect religious freedom: “We are a worldwide Church, brothers and sisters,” he said. “Our membership is found across the globe. I admonish you to be good citizens of the nations in which you live and good neighbors in your communities, reaching out to those of other faiths as well as to our own. May we be tolerant of, as well as kind and loving to, those who do not share our beliefs and our standards” (“Until We Meet Again”).
The stand for protecting religious freedom goes back to the first prophet of this dispensation. Joseph Smith said, “I am bold to declare before Heaven that I am just as ready to die in defending the rights of a Presbyterian, a Baptist, or a good man of any other denomination; for the same principle which would trample upon the rights of the Latter-day Saints would trample upon the rights of the Roman Catholics, or of any other denomination, who may be unpopular and too weak to defend themselves” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 345).
Religious freedom is also a right contained in the very first amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It prohibits the federal government from making a law “respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
More than a year ago the Church began posting a series of in-depth commentaries relating to religious freedom at mormonnewsroom.org. Members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve—including President Monson, Elder L. Tom Perry, Elder Russell M. Nelson, Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, and Elder Quentin L. Cook—have addressed the importance of religious freedom.
In addition to General Authorities, leaders of many faiths have expressed deep concern that religious liberty is eroding in the United States and around the world. Last June, Pope Francis spoke about religious freedom on Vatican Radio. He said: “In today’s world, religious freedom is more often affirmed than put into practice. It is often threatened, and not infrequently violated. The serious outrages against this fundamental right are a source of serious concern, and need to be confronted at the global level.”
The new Facebook page, titled “Support Religious Freedom,” will regularly share news and information about religious freedom, courtesy of the Church. The Newsroom’s religious freedom topic page lays out the principles of religious freedom and offers suggestions on how to engage this issue. Specifically, it encourages people to learn more about religious freedom, study the issues, be civil in conversations and interactions, join with others to promote religious freedom, and use the Internet and social media to help others learn about this subject.
“It is important for us to become well educated on this issue and assume responsibility for ensuring that the religious freedom we have inherited is passed on to future generations,” Elder Cook said. He also encouraged us to defend religious freedom “on the Internet and in your personal interactions in the neighborhoods and communities where you live” (“Restoring Morality and Religious Freedom,” Ensign, Sept. 2012, 37, 38).
Included among the new resources are various videos. One video features Elder Perry, who emphasizes that the “essential freedoms of conscience, embedded in religious liberty, must be diligently preserved and protected” (“Mormon Apostle Promotes Religious Freedom”).
An animated video shows the issue of religious freedom in an easy-to-understand and engaging format. It was designed to pique the interest of those who have never thought about the importance of religious freedom.
Another video features comments from religious freedom experts and everyday citizens concerned about this subject. It shows them sharing their conviction about what ordinary people can do to preserve religious freedom.
These resources contribute to the conversations taking place on this topic and highlight freedom of religion as a fundamental human right that protects the conscience of all people and allows them to act upon what they deeply believe. Churches, religious organizations, and individuals face increasing restrictions as they participate in the public square, exercise conscience in their professions, express their beliefs, or serve in society.